'Wonderful feet': Alamance artist makes pottery, paints in unique way
Times-News - 12/16/2018
Dec. 16--Decker Miller, 28, is an accomplished painter, artist and potter -- and all of his creations have been made with his feet.
A year and a half ago, Miller and his mother Sandy found out Alamance Community College (ACC) offered pottery courses as part of its continuing education curriculum for adults who want to learn new skills.
Though Miller lives with cerebral palsy, he's never let it get in the way of making things, so the pair looked into signing up.
"The director looked at me and she said, 'Are you sure Decker can do this?' And I said, 'I'm not sure, but, you know, he's got some wonderful feet,'" Sandy said during a phone interview on Monday.
Those wonderful feet have since made bowls, jugs, plates and pots, some of which he's sold to the public and to members of his family.
But he doesn't do it for the money. He does it for fun -- and to get very, very dirty.
"I stay with him during class time and we get covered in mud," Sandy laughed. "We can cover the walls, we can cover the floor. It's pretty messy, but he loves it and has a ball with it. The bigger the mess, the happier he is."
Sandy assists with the more detailed work, like placing features Miller has rolled up with his toes onto the clay to form a face.
"I can't make anything unless I have him with me," she said. "It's like we both complete one person when we're doing it together."
At home, he'll often use his computer or iPad to look for new project ideas on Pinterest to show his mother. He's a bit more ambitious than she is, but she goes along with whatever he wants to do.
When they create a piece they're proud of, they call it their "lucky pot" or "lucky bowl." Some creations are luckier than others, but that's just the nature of creating art.
Even the pieces that don't turn out quite right are celebrated. Miller calls them "organic" because they represent his own style.
"He just goes in with a can-do attitude and whatever comes out, comes out," Sandy said.
She hopes Miller's story might inspire more people with unique situations to take classes at ACC, or try whatever it is they've always wanted to try.
"Don't think of them as handicapped people. Think of them as adventurers," Sandy said. "Just because he rides in a wheelchair doesn't mean he's handicapped. You know, it doesn't matter what your disability is, there's always something you can do."
ACC offers more than 40 different personal enrichment courses including painting, stained glassmaking, photography, cake decorating and basic sign language. For a full list, visit https://www.alamancecc.edu/continuing-education-site/ or call 336-578-2002 to find out more.
In addition to making pottery, Miller loves to draw.
He's always trying out new sketching programs on his tablet or computer, and he's even designed his own pottery studio, which he's assured his mother he'll have one day.
Sandy said his birthday is Dec. 19, and there's a special surprise waiting for him that will help him make that studio a reality, but let's not ruin it.
This is only the beginning of what could be a lifelong venture.
"This might turn into something that he wants to do for the rest of his life," Sandy said. "If he has a chance to learn to do something, he's going to learn to do it with the might that he has inside of him."
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.
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